Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Author: Raelene Atwood
Summary: Vampires and other supernatural creatures live amongst humans in today's world.
Madison witnessed a very unusual sight as she walked into Holliday’s for her Friday night shift—there was a snow white falcon perched on top of the roof. The falcon seemed to be watching her, and she felt strangely uncomfortable as she walked through the door beneath the bird, though she told herself that it was just her imagination. Once inside, she looked out the window to see the falcon now perched up on the window sill, looking in right at her. The bird was impossibly bright against the night sky, almost glowing like a star.
“Hey, Maddy,” called Jane, from behind the bar.
“Jane?” she said, straightening out her apron. “Did you see that bird sittin’ out there?”
“Bird? What bird?” said Jane. She looked up from behind the bar and cocked her head slightly to the right. “I didn’t see no bird.”
“It’s right there,” she said, pointing outside. But when she turned around to face the window, it was nowhere to be found. She shrugged the matter off and muttered, “Never mind, I’m just goin’ crazy, I guess.”
Business was much slower than usual that night, mostly due to an accident on the highway nearby. Since there were no patrons at the bar, Jane was procrastinating on doing inventory in her office in the back. There was no usual dinner rush to speak of, and for most of the night, the only people inside were Jane and her employees. Around nine o’ clock, a woman, the very same woman that had appeared naked at Marley’s door, casually walked into Holliday’s after reading the “Help Wanted” sign in the window. She stood around for a while, observing the inside of the nearly empty restaurant. Noticing the woman after a few minutes (she was absent-mindedly playing with her hair in the kitchen), Madison approached her with a smile on her face, holding a menu in her arms.
“Hi there,” she said. “Welcome to Holliday’s. Let me find you a seat.”
“Oh, actually,” said the woman. She extended her slender arm and shook Madison’s hand. “Hi. My name is Erin Lukas, and I’m here to apply for a job.”
“Oh, wonderful. We’ve been looking for help for weeks. Here, come meet my manager.”
Madison led Erin into the back where Jane’s office was and rapped her knuckle on the wooden door.
“Come in,” said Jane.
“Jane, there’s a girl out here who wants a job,” said Madison. She smiled at Erin. She spoke again, this time in a sing-song voice, “She’s real cute and friendly.”
“Alright, send her in here.”
Madison opened the door and watched Erin enter Jane’s office. She closed the door and walked back out to the front of the restaurant, where she saw her cousin, Marley. Marley was wearing an oversized black t-shirt of the Rolling Stones and denim cutoffs with worn gray high-top sneakers. She had a yellow paisley bandana tied around her neck. Madison gasped, dropping her jaw to the floor and running over to embrace her cousin.
“Oh, my stars, where have you been?” she exclaimed, hugging Marley tight. “You’ve been gone for over a week! Why didn’t you call or write or anything? We were all so worried. Oh, I’m so glad you’re back!”
“Whoa, easy, tiger,” said Marley. “You’re gonna break my ribs.”
“I’m sorry,” said Madison, with a laugh. She stomped her feet on the floor and shook her hands in the air excitedly, like a little kid. “Gran said you told Josh that you were in Atlanta. What were you doin’ there? Oh, come here, let’s sit at a booth and chat.”
Madison led Marley to one of the empty booths by the hand and they sat down across from each other.
“I um, I was just…I just needed to be away from home for a while, that’s all,” said Marley. She fiddled with her hands, avoiding her cousin’s eyes. “I didn’t do too much over in the city; I just kind of…drifted for a while.”
“How are you feeling, though? You’re so skinny!”
“Oh, I’m okay. I’m just…y’know, kind of tired, is all. What about you? How have you been?”
“I’ve been doin’ just fine,” said Madison. She was grinning ear to ear, happy to see her cousin for the first time in a week. “I have so much to tell you. Oh, my gawd, I met a couple of vampires the other night, and—”
“Vampires?” said Marley, alarmed. She unconsciously fidgeted with her bandana as she spoke. Her voice trembled. “What were you doing with vampires?”
Just as Madison opened her mouth to speak, she heard Jane snap twice in rapid succession to get her attention. She turned around to see Jane and Erin standing behind her. Erin looked straight at Marley and without thinking, Marley held her breath, fear-struck. She felt like Erin’s eyes were penetrating her deep in her soul. She felt cold and shaky.
“Hey, Marley,” said Jane. Marley acknowledged her with a wave. “Maddy, can you show the new girl around? I need to go do inventory.”
“Uh, yeah, sure,” said Madison, getting up on her feet. “But wait, Marley, do you want to eat anything? You’re all skin and bones!”
Marley shook her head, staring into Erin’s cold eyes.
“Okay, Mar. I’ll talk to you later, alright? You should go see Gran if you haven’t already,” said Madison. She turned around to face Erin and beamed. “Here, Erin, follow me. Let me show you the back first. Bye, Mar-Mar.”
“Bye,” said Marley, her eyes still locked on Erin. Madison gave her cousin another hug and began leading Erin away by the wrist. Before they disappeared into the back of the restaurant, Erin turned her head around and shot Marley a malicious grin. Marley wordlessly stood up and walked out of Holliday’s as fast as her feet would take her.